Authorities Accuse South Florida Man of Identity Theft, Years After He Won $2 Million Verdict Against City of SweetwaterPosted on October 14th, 2013 No comments
Federal agents have hauled in 44 people who the government claims participated in a massive identity theft and tax fraud scheme across South Florida. One of them has been in the public eye before – Peter Michael Daniel.
He won millions of dollars in a judgment against the city of Sweetwater and on Friday his parents told NBC 6 Daniel hasn’t done anything wrong.
Daniel won a $2 million dollar verdict against the City of Sweetwater. As a 19-year-old a decade ago he claimed police, who thought he had stolen another cop’s jet ski, took him to a cell and beat him so badly he suffered head trauma, a lacerated liver and spleen, and needed emergency surgery.
Now federal agents and prosecutors have charged Daniel, 29, with identity theft. The indictment says he committed device fraud for his unauthorized possession of at least 15 other people’s Social Security numbers.
“There’s a lot of allegations. He will have his day in court,” his mother Lourdes Lima said.
Daniel’s parents said he was inside their west Miami-Dade home today, but couldn’t talk about the allegations. They said their son is completely innocent and believed the information he had was part of a legitimate business.
“He’s not in jail. He’s not in jail. He’s OK, he’s fine and he will be fine,” his stepfather Juan Lima said. “As soon as we get everything straightened out he will be fine.”
The parents also said anything Daniel had was given to him by someone close to them they trusted.
Daniel told the magistrate judge at his bond hearing that he was out of funds and a public defender was initially assigned to him.
His mother called NBC 6 after a crew left their home to say that separate charges the county brought against him were dropped last year and they ultimately expect the same in federal court.
The U.S. attorney’s office said that the ID theft and tax fraud ring was widespread and did significant damage.
Posted on June 26th, 2013 No comments
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – David Sanders is a victim of identity theft. He told us, “They had made a credit card with my number and name on it.” He says it didn’t take long for him to find out someone was using his identity and spending his money in another state. “I got an email that I had a charge from a Kohl’s in Dallas, Texas of all places, and I was right here in Delray Beach.”
According to the Federal Trade Commission, South Florida is number one on the list for identity theft complaints, which includes Palm Beach County. Port Saint Lucie ranks number 7.
Reggie Montgomery, a retired police officer, has advice on how to protect your identity.
“Make sure that their wallet does not get out of their sight, number one.” He says don’t give out your date of birth or social security number to someone over the phone.
“If you go into your doctor’s office, they don’t need your social security number. You see it on every form in every doctor’s office, they don’t need it. They have your insurance information,” said Montgomery.
When you throw out personal information in the garbage, such as credit cards or canceled checks, shred them.
He says the best shredder is the cross shredder, which makes the paper look like confetti.
Montgomery says “And when you throw the shredding out, put liquid on it so that nobody is going to go through it and try to put it back together.”
You can also protect yourself with the right mailbox. “Have a locking mailbox, make sure that nobody can get into your mailbox, that’s another way people get your information,” he said.
Posted on June 25th, 2013 No comments
A fast-moving identity thief took only 45 minutes to charge more than $1,000 during a shopping spree, and now authorities want to quickly find the identity of the thief.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office Tuesday released surveillance video taken on March 15 at two Target Stores in Hollywood, where detectives say the man used a credit card that was mailed to a Pembroke Park address. He was also seen visiting a Wells Fargo bank the same day.
Investigators say the thief stole the identity information of a 52-year-old Miami Gardens resident in order to obtain the credit card.
The Sheriff’s Office asks anyone with information on the case to contact Detective Phillip Love at 954-964-0534 or Broward Crime Stoppers, anonymously, at 954-493-8477.
Posted on May 1st, 2013 No comments
Agents confiscated more than $780,000
A 52-year-old Pompano Beach man was convicted of identity theft and tax refund fraud, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer announced Thursday.
Nael Dawud Sammour was found guilty of the identity theft charges after a three-day jury trial in Fort Lauderdale federal court. Before the trial, he pleaded guilty to the eight tax refund fraud counts, prosecutors said.
Undercover IRS agents posed as Sammour’s refund check cashers. They seized 75 U.S. Treasury tax refund checks totaling $750,369 and another $30,128 in cash from Sammour during his arrest, according to court records.
Several unknown suspects used stolen identification — including the names, birth dates, and the social security numbers of unsuspecting taxpayers — to fraudulently apply for and receive U.S. tax refunds. Sammour received many of these refund checks and later gave them, along with counterfeit driver’s licenses and Social Security cards, to the undercover IRS agents who were expected to cash them, according to trial evidence and testimony.
Sammour faces up to 10 years in prison on each of the eight tax refund fraud counts, as well as mandatory two year consecutive terms on the aggravated identity theft charges when sentenced July 1, prosecutors said.
Posted on October 23rd, 2012 No comments
What happens when you are out with your friends on a Saturday evening, enjoying the brisk cool breeze of autumn and a sweet pumpkin ale at your favorite local tavern when you seek to buy a round of drinks… You hand over your credit card to the bartender only to find out that your credit card comes back as a failure to respond and you swore to yourself that you paid that bill just last week. It’s impossible! Or is it?
Every minute about 19 people fall victim to identify theft, according to TransUnion.com. Prevention is vital for the safety of you and your family, as well as your personal assets. It has become easier and easier for criminals to steal a person’s identity because of increased technological advances. Yet, not being aware of precautions of your old paperwork, could easily slip into the hands of those who prey on vulnerable people. Your identity is your life, don’t let others misrepresent you.
A common misconception with identity theft is that this would never happen to you. The problem with this way of thinking is that when you’re caught off guard, it most likely will happen to you. What is a proper precaution for identity theft? Using MicroShred’s shredding services. MicroShred, LLC is a confidential and secure shredding company serving Southern Florida. They can destroy old documents and retain peace of mind. Whether you have old documents with your social security number, name, address, or license number, MicroShred.com would be able to rid of these documents in a proper way, thus resulting in less chances of identity theft.
It takes an average victim approximately $500.00 and at least 30 hours to solve each identity theft crime, according to TransUnion.com. This brings up another valid point, which is your time! Your time is the greatest asset you own. In order to preserve as much time (and headaches) as possible, one should deter themselves from the vultures of this crime. The benefits of shredding your old paperwork outweighs the flaws. The use of MicroShred’s services can be time saving, problem solving, and offer true peace of mind.
In conclusion, the realities of identity theft can be ugly, stressful, and downright annoying. An average family doesn’t have the extra time and money to hunt down criminals of identity theft. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Shred old paperwork and documents and avoid ID thieves. It’s your life. Take control of it.
Posted on September 27th, 2012 No comments
TAMPA — The Internal Revenue Service is tripling the number of staff members nationwide who are dedicated to addressing the issue of identity theft tax refund fraud, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said.
Castor, the Tampa Democrat, said she was briefed last Friday by IRS officials regarding progress the agency is making to tackle the epidemic of fraud in which the Tampa area leads the nation.
Thieves use stolen personal information — such as names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers — to file tax returns with fake income information and obtain fraudulent tax refunds.
According to a recent inspector general report, thieves in the Tampa area alone stole more than $400 billion last year from federal taxpayers this way. Nationwide, identity thieves are stealing billions from the federal government through refund fraud.
Castor said the IRS assured her it is increasing its screening filters, designed to detect fraudulent returns before refunds are issued. Across the board, law enforcement officials have repeatedly said the fraud is so pervasive, it cannot be stopped by arrests and prosecutions — that the IRS needs to stop sending “refunds” to thieves.
The IRS told Castor that so far this year, it has prevented 2.3 million fraudulent refunds from being issued, totaling $15 billion. That’s compared to 1.4 million fraudulent refunds stopped in 2011, worth $11 billion.
Part of that effort apparently involves increasing scrutiny of tax filings originating from Tampa, Castor noted.
“I said, ‘Geographically, where you know there is an epidemic, like the Tampa Bay area and the state of Florida, I assume filters are place.’ They said yes.
“They say they’re on the cusp of instituting many, multiple new filters to prevent the fraud from happening in the first place,” Castor said.
“So they will flag, for example, multiple returns coming to the same address. That’s a question I keep getting. How can it be that the IRS is sending multiple debit cards and returns to the same address over and over?”
Castor also noted something police have been saying: often crooks will use the same fake numbers repeatedly on numerous returns. For example, two suspects indicted this week were accused of filing 17 tax returns, each seeking refunds of $1,453.
The new filters, Castor says she was assured, “will flag that.”
While Castor was encouraged by the new IRS approach, she added, “I know from the folks coming to my office with checks and calls and people I see in the grocery store, this is still a huge problem and we’ve got to continue to press the IRS until Tampa no longer is number one for tax fraud.”
Castor said that she was told that by October, the agency will reallocate personnel to beef up the number of people dedicated to issues related to ID theft tax refund fraud. The agency will have more than 2,300 people addressing the issue, Castor said. These people are being moved from other areas and are not new hires.
The agency anticipates that by tax season, it will issue about 500,000 personal identification numbers to identity theft victims. The PIN numbers are designed to stop victims from being further harmed by having their real returns rejected.
The agency said it is “modernizing” its efforts to block use of information gained from the Social Security death master file, an online database of deceased individuals with their Social Security numbers and dates of birth. The data has been used extensively by refund fraud thieves.
Castor said she was pleased to see recent efforts by the federal government to address the fraud, including a directive issued this week by the Justice Department to speed up prosecutions and the arrests of some high-profile suspects.
The congresswoman said she spoke to the IRS about a pilot program in Florida in which identity theft victims can sign waivers giving law enforcement access to tax returns filed fraudulently in their names.
Castor said the IRS told her it has issued 750 of those waivers.
The amount of time it has taken the agency to address the issue is “not satisfactory at all,” Castor said. “But there are some positive signs here. We’ve got their attention.”
Posted on August 30th, 2012 No comments
The Internal Revenue Service may have delivered more than $5 billion in refund checks to identity thieves who filed fraudulent tax returns for 2011, Treasury Department investigators said on August 2, 2012. They estimate another $21 billion could make its way to ID thieves’ pockets over the next five years.
The IRS is detecting far fewer fraudulent tax refund claims than actually occur, according to a government audit that warned the widespread problem could undermine public trust in the U.S. tax system. Although the IRS detected about 940,000 fraudulent returns for last year claiming $6.5 billion in refunds, there were potentially another 1.5 million undetected cases of thieves seeking refunds after assuming the identity of a dead person, child or someone else who normally wouldn’t file a tax return.
In one example, investigators found a single address in Lansing, Mich., that was used to file 2,137 separate tax returns. The IRS issued more than $3.3 million in refunds to that address. Three addresses in Florida, the epicenter of the identity theft crisis, filed more than 500 returns totaling more than $1 million in refunds for each address.
In another troubling scenario, hundreds of refunds were deposited into the same bank account – a red flag for investigators searching for ID thieves who may be filing for refunds for multiple people. In one instance, the IRS deposited 590 refunds totaling more than $900,000 into one account.
“We found multiple reasons for the IRS’s inability to detect billions of dollars in fraud,” J. Russell George, the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration, in a statement. “At a time when every dollar counts, these results are extremely troubling.”
Topping the list of concerns is the IRS’s lack of timely access to third-party information it needs to verify returns and root out fraud.
Many Americans are struggling to pay their bills and the IRS takes pride in processing returns and issuing refunds promptly. But taxpayers can start filing their returns in mid-January, while employers and financial institutions don’t have to submit withholding and income documents for taxpayers to the IRS until the end of March. That means the IRS often issues refunds long before it can confirm the veracity of what’s listed on taxpayer returns.
Thieves are also exploiting vulnerabilities in the way the IRS delivers refunds, investigators found. Of the 1.5 million undetected cases of potential fraud, 1.2 million used direct deposits, including pre-loaded debit cards. Thieves often prefer those methods to a paper check, which require a physical address to receive the check and photo ID matching the taxpayer’s name to cash it.
IRS officials said the growth of identity theft-related fraud is one of its biggest challenges. Already this year, the agency has stopped almost $12 billion in confirmed fraud, it says. And it says its criminal investigators are actively pursuing those who perpetrate fraud – including the previously undetected cases identified by the audit.
“If the IRS determines a refund has been issued improperly, we will attempt to recoup the funds,” said IRS spokeswoman Michelle Eldridge.
The IRS agreed with the inspector general that Congress should expand the agency’s access to resources that could help it fight theft, including the National Directory of New Hires, a database created to help states enforce child support orders. The IRS specifically asked Congress for that authority in its 2013 budget request.
But IRS officials disputed the notion that $21 billion in fraudulent returns could be issued over the next five years, arguing that the estimate didn’t take into account the IRS’s stepped-up compliance and prevention efforts.
“We’re going to continue to monitor the IRS in this area until we see some improvement,” Michael McKenney, the acting deputy inspector general for audit, told The Associated Press.
Investigators went back through a sample of the 1.5 billion undetected cases to see why the IRS never flagged them as fraudulent. In 49 of 60 returns, investigators said, the return didn’t score high enough on the IRS’s fraud filter to merit a closer review. In eight of the 11 cases where the IRS did perform an additional review, it never verified the income and withholding on the return.
The audit was prompted by a request from Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, whose home state contains the top two cities where fraudulent tax returns originate: Tampa and Miami. Last week Nelson, a Democrat, joined with Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma to introduce legislation designed to curb identity theft in the tax system.
“It’s an ongoing problem,” Nelson said in a statement. “We’ve got to find a fix.”
Nelson’s bill would improve protections for Social Security numbers that thieves need to file returns, and would expand an existing program that gives previous victims of ID theft a personal identification number to deter repeat offenses against the same taxpayer. Another bipartisan bill passed by the House on Wednesday would bolster prosecutions and strengthen criminal penalties on ID thieves.
The IRS said it is already putting a number of new measures in place, including new ID theft screening filters that will hold on to refunds until the IRS can verify a taxpayer’s identity. That filter had thwarted about $1.3 billion in potentially fraudulent refunds through April, the audit said. Another system flags returns filed with Social Security numbers of those who have died.
For those who fall victim to identity thieves, the recovery process can be less than smooth. A separate report by the inspector general in May found that the IRS wasn’t providing good customer service and proper assistance to victims of ID theft, increasing the burden for those whose identities are stolen. The Federal Trade Commission has listed identity theft as the No. 1 consumer complaint for the past 12 years.
Posted on August 23rd, 2012 No comments
A Florida hospital employee used a dead patient’s credit card information to purchase plane tickets, buy shoes and pay off her phone bill, police said.
Margaret Nunn, 53, who works as a patient registration representative, was arrested Wednesday, July 26th, on one count of identity theft and seven counts of credit card fraud.
Police said Nunn admitted stealing from the unidentified 63-year-old victim, who died in the emergency room at Sarasota Memorial Hospital on June 10.
“Within hours after his death his three credit cards were used to purchase airline tickets, bridal shoes, pay phone bills and other assorted items totaling over $1186.00,” Sarasota police said in a statement.
Detectives worked with the hospital’s public safety office to identify Nunn as a suspect, police said.
She was suspended from her job and was later terminated on June 29, said Kim Savage, spokeswoman for Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
“It was an isolated individual,” Savage said. “In this case she just wrote down the information while she was registering the patient.”
The hospital routinely conducts audits to ensure that employees are only accessing patient information for legitimate reasons, Savage said.
Nunn is being held at Sarasota County Jail and has a $10,000 bond.
Posted on July 16th, 2012 No comments
Identity theft is sweeping the nation, ripping off citizens and even the federal government. If you haven’t been a victim yet, you could be next.
I was recently informed by the IRS that I had been the victim of identity theft. Some yahoo down in Florida had submitted a fraudulent return using my name and Social Security number. Upon further review, the IRS discovered that already 60 checks had gone to the same address in Florida. Duh.
My accountant was very helpful and gave me a checklist of items that have to be done quickly to avoid further damage. One of the items on the checklist was to immediately file a police report with my local precinct. I called the Greenwich, Connecticut, police non-emergency number and they dispatched a squad car to my home. I soon realized the scope of the problem after talking with the officer.
He told me the case eventually would move on to the FBI as identity theft has become an epidemic in this country and is believed to be international in scope. I was given a case identification number. You will see later why this step is so important in the identity theft checklist below:
- Call the IRS and inform them you believe you are a victim of identity theft. (Often the way you will find out that something is amiss is when you don’t receive your refund check. It may have been issued to the thief who has assumed your identity).
- Fill out IRS Form 14039 and fax or mail back to IRS.
- Contact the Social Security Administration. (here is a link to the Identity Theft webpage). If you contact them by phone they will tell you to contact the Federal Trade Commission.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission (877-438-4338). After you contact them by phone, you will be sent an Identity Theft Complaint Affidavit.
- Contact your local police department and tell them you have been a victim of identity theft. Make sure you get a case number and follow up in a few days to get the full police report.
- Contact one of the three credit bureaus: Equifax at 800-525-6285, Trans Union at 800-680-7289, or Experian at 888-397-3742.
This will be the most difficult part of the process. Don’t let them give you the runaround. Most of the people you talk to will be hellbent on selling you a service. Tell them you are entitled to make a victim-of-fraud statement that will be put into your credit history. I found Equifax the most helpful; they worked diligently to make sure I was taken care of. The service representative reviewed my credit to see if any fraudulent accounts had been opened. Fortunately I was OK.
It is probably a good idea to review your credit reports once every couple of months and look for any errors or fraud. All three companies offer a service at varying degrees of cost. Remember you are entitled by law to a free copy of your credit report at least once a year.
Don’t forget to send them a full copy of the police report. They will need this to keep your fraud alert on file for more than 90 days. All three companies are required to pass on your victim statement to the other two bureaus, however it is probably a good idea to call all three after a few days to follow up.
I hope none of you will have to use this information, but given the scope and size of the epidemic, chances are you will.
Posted on June 2nd, 2011 No comments
A.R.M.S. (Automated Records Management Systems Inc.), based in De Pere, Wis., has announced the acquisition of the shredding division of K-tech Kleening Systems Inc. of Weston, Wis.
Follow this link:
A.R.M.S. Expands through Acquisition